Concerns remain over Kemptville prison plan

·3 min read

North Grenville residents remain concerned about the prospect of a provincial prison being built on the former Kemptville College grounds.

“There’s no doubt that the community is divided,” said Mayor Nancy Peckford during the municipal council's meeting on Tuesday.

Several months ago, Premier Doug Ford announced that the Eastern Ontario Correctional Complex, previously named the Greater Ottawa Correctional Complex, will be built on the provincially-owned former campus land.

Many residents in North Grenville met the announcement of the 253-bed prison with concern and surprise.

Current concerns are about situating the facility as close to Highway 416 as possible, placing it back from the existing roads, daycares, schools and community paths. Members of CAPP are also concerned for the agriculture and infrastructure in the area.

"In all the conversations we've had with mayors throughout Ontario that are hosting correctional facilities, none had felt that in anyway that the facilities distracted, or undermined, or compromised tourism efforts or any downtown revitalization," Peckford responded to a delegation at Tuesday's council meeting.

The mayor directed her comment to Colleen Lynas, a spokeswoman for the Collation Against the Proposed Prison (CAPP), and Kirk Albert, a local resident.

"From your perspective that may be something that you're struggling with and that's fair. Every resident in this community can have an opinion about the correctional facility but all the conversations we've had to date haven't led us to feel we're imperilling the Kemptville campus."

With no public transit system, Kemptville residents are concerned about how the inmates and staff would travel between the correctional facility and Ottawa.

"From an environmental perspective, think of the excess traffic that's now going to travel back and forth every day along the 416, at a time when we know we should be reducing our emissions," said Lynas.

Many have highlighted the cost of repairs and upgrades the roads in Kemptville would need to sustain the prison.

"With projects of this size, we recognize that there will be an impact on municipal infrastructure. For this reason, the project budget includes the necessary funding to support the servicing and road requirements for the facility," said Deputy Solicitor General Deborah Richardson in a prepared statement.

"We have been sharing information on the servicing requirements with the municipality to ensure that we can appropriately plan for the additional sewage capacity and to mitigate any impacts to municipal infrastructure."

Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes MPP Steve Clark has advocated to the Ministry of the Solicitor General to provide the buildings on the former college campus for the International Plowing Match in 2022 and to move forward to provide additional agricultural opportunities.

"The response that (Deputy) Solicitor General Richardson gave us is very encouraging and significant concern that some residents had, and also provide economic development opportunity on the site for agriculture. That both myself and the municipality have been interested in,” said Clark.

Shortly after the announcement, in November 2020, a local resident filed an access to information request to the province.

"It specifically requested documentation related to the site selection, is other words, why was Kemptville chosen as the location for this new prison?" said Lynas.

The resident received the 10-page response in June and then shared those documents with CAPP.

"Of the apparently 145 pages that were relevant to the request, only 10 were released to us. So the remaining 135 were withheld, which we find quite concerning, just in terms of a real lack of transparently," said Lynas.

She wonders what is in the rest of the pages, adding very little was provided in the pages, and that no emails or messages were included regarding the prison.

Jessica Munro, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times

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